A long-feared purge of pro-Israel parliamentarians from the British Labour Party began in earnest on Thursday, with one party meeting even broadcast live over the internet by PressTV — the official English-language mouthpiece of the Iranian regime.
Pro-Israel MPs Joan Ryan and Gavin Shuker both lost no-confidence votes at packed constituency meetings on Thursday night.
Ryan’s defeat in the parliamentary constituency of Enfield North is particularly significant — the chair of Labour Friends of Israel since 2015, she has been a key Labour voice supporting the UK’s Jewish community, as the successive antisemitism scandals that have engulfed the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership show no signs of abating.
“This was about antisemitism in the Labour party and those of us who have stood by the Jewish community and said, ‘Enough is enough,’” Ryan declared in statement following the vote. “I made no apologies last night for that and I make no apologies now.”
Ryan continued: “I will continue to speak out against antisemitism, against the campaign to demonize and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state, and for a Labour party which is true to its values of anti-racism, respect and decency.”
After losing the vote by a 94-92 margin, Ryan blamed the outcome on “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard-left” activists. In the period immediately before and then following Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in September 2015, the party’s membership virtually doubled through an influx of pro-Corbyn activists.
Those MPs who adopt an adversarial stance towards the leader are therefore a vulnerable target for Labour’s far-left, who are grouped around an organization called “Momentum” that aims to cement Corbyn’s hold over the party. Other sitting MPs affiliated with Labour Friends of Israel — including some of Corbyn’s most outspoken opponents on antisemitism, such as Jewish parliamentarians Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and Louise Ellman — could find themselves next in line for no-confidence votes.
The only media organization present for the proceedings against Ryan was Iran’s PressTV, whose license to broadcast in the UK was revoked in 2012 after regulators determined that its output is controlled by the Tehran regime. PressTV footage viewed by the regulators at the time included a series of forced confessions that were obtained through the torture of prisoners.
The Iranian channel carried the meeting on its Twitter feed, referring to Ryan as a “pro-Israel MP” and carrying the hashtag, #WeAreAllEnfieldNorth.
Among the Labour Party figures who condemned the presence of the banned Iranian broadcaster was Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who said on Twitter that it had turned the proceedings against Ryan into a “farce.”
Impossible to fathom how Iran State TV was able to live-tweet the Joan Ryan no confidence vote at Enfield North – from inside the CLP meeting. This disorder makes a farce of the proceedings and is not how the modern Labour Party should conduct its affairs. https://t.co/gbauEEw2sq
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) September 7, 2018
Prior to becoming party leader, Corbyn appeared several times on PressTV as a presenter, for which he received payments totaling $27,000, according to the official parliamentary register of members’ interests.
In one PressTV appearance in 2012, Corbyn opined that Israel had likely been involved in the massacre in August that year of 16 Egyptian police officers by Islamist terrorists in northern Sinai. “In whose interest is it to kill Egyptians, other than Israel, concerned at the growing closeness of relationship between Palestine and the new Egyptian government?” asked Corbyn during the interview, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood regime that was ousted in 2013. He then added, “I suspect the hand of Israel in this whole process of destabilization.”
Gavin Shuker — the second pro-Israel MP to be defeated in a no-confidence vote by pro-Corbyn activists on Thursday — was defiant afterward. “It’s not part of any formal procedure, so it changes nothing about my role as Labour MP for Luton South,” Shuker said on Twitter.
While the no-confidence votes were not binding, they constituted further evidence of the party’s dramatic transformation under Corbyn’s leadership. In her statement, Ryan argued that Labour now had a stark choice.
“It’s either an aspiring party of government, focused laser-like on the priorities of the British people: Brexit, an economy which works for everyone, and rebuilding our austerity-starved public services,” Ryan said. “Or it’s a party fighting with itself about ideological purity, arguing with the Jewish community about what constitutes antisemitism, and going down a rabbit warren of deselection, purges and harassment.”
Ryan then counseled: “It can’t be both.”